Gambling bill ready to go to House floor

By The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A key House committee Monday approved an 83-page gambling bill that includes ratifying a 20-year agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

With the vote by the Commerce Committee, the bill (HB 7067), sponsored by Tourism & Gaming Control Chairman Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, is ready to go to the House floor.

The bill, which is substantially different from legislation (SB 840) in the Senate, would lead to the tribe paying $3 billion to the state over seven years.

In exchange, the tribe would have exclusive rights to conduct banked card games, such as blackjack, at five of its casinos.

Also, the tribe would continue to have exclusive authority to offer slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and pari-mutuel facilities would be barred from offering lucrative “designated player” card games.

Rep. Mike Miller, R-Winter Park, said the bill would provide “certainty” after years of debate about changes in the gambling industry and after legal battles between the state and the Seminole Tribe.

But Democratic opponents criticized part of the bill that would direct part of the money to charter schools, an issue that Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, called a “poison pill.”

The House and Senate would have to reach agreement on a final bill before the scheduled March 9 end of the annual legislative session.

News Service of Florida